REVIEW: LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES: MAXIMUM OVERLOAD

CAST

Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Laura Bailey (Justice League vs Teen Titans)
Barry Dennen (Titanic)
Steve Blum (Wolverine & The X-Men)
Greg Cipes (Teen Titans)
Bumper Robinson (Sabrina: TTW)
Troy Baker (Justice League Action)
Drake Bell (Superhero Movie)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Chi McBride (Human Target)
Robin Atkins Downes (Babylon 5)
Grey DeLisle (The Replacements)
Tom Kenny (Superhero Squad)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Roger Craig Smith (Batman Unlimited)
Travis Willingham (Sonic Boom)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)

lego-marvel-super-heroes-maximum-overload-post-6The mischievous Loki challenges the Marvel Super Heroes yet again. But this time, he’s cast a snowball-themed spell that has Norn Frost in it to “Overload” various villains. At a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base in New Jersey, Doctor Octopus raids it in order to obtain the Beta Burst Missile. Using the Norn Frost obtained by his Chitauri minion, Loki “overloads” Doctor Octopus. In Manhattan, Nick Fury calls upon Spider-Man to help defeat Doctor Octopus. Before Doctor Octopus can use the Beta Burst Missile on the trapped S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, Spider-Man arrives and tricks Doctor Octopus into shocking himself on a nearby power generator. The next morning, Spider-Man brings a bound Doctor Octopus back to Manhattan in a truck upon running out of web fluid on the Garden State Parkway. Nick Fury takes Doctor Octopus to be locked up as Spider-Man is left walking back to Queens, New York. Loki is not pleased that his Doctor Octopus “Overload” was defeated and vows that it’s not over.
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Some time later, news articles are shown about the “Overloads” like the rise of the Red Skull “Overload,” the Wizard “Overload” forming the Frightful Sixteen which outnumbers the Fantastic Four, and the Green Goblin “Overload.” J. Jonah Jameson reports on the “Overloads” and claims that Spider-Man is behind this. Loki then uses the Norn Frost on Venom since he is a creature worth overloading. Appearing near the stand of the Hot Dog Vendor, Venom is overloaded as Loki commands Venom to attack Spider-Man. Their fight takes them through the Daily Bugle much to the dismay of J. Jonah Jameson. Spider-Man manages to defeat Venom by getting one of Venom’s tendrils into the Linotype machine where Venom ends up flattened onto a bunch of newspapers. Venom’s body is taken away by Nick Fury, Captain America, and Wolverine. As Spider-Man swings away from the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson rants about his newsroom getting trashed as he vows to get Spider-Man for this. Spider-Man runs out of web fluid and falls into a dumpster leaving him to walk back to Queens again.
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While reprimanding his Chitauri henchman for sitting in his chair, Loki sees a helicopter carrying Mandarin flying to Tony Stark’s Malibu mansion to attack it. Loki then throws the Norn Frost at Mandarin who then prepares to attack. Iron Man saves Pepper Potts by getting her into an Iron Man armor. Iron Man then begins to fight Mandarin. As Loki plans to overload Mandarin further, his Chitauri minion slips and causes the Norn Frosts to fall into the nearby crevices. Iron Man uses his left glove to knock Mandarin out of his helicopter as he is grabbed by Falcon who takes Mandarin to the Helicarrier. Iron Man is then helped out of the rubble by his left glove before leaving with Pepper to eat out somewhere. Spider-Man suddenly finds himself at an offshore oil platform wondering how he got there. While his Scrying Mirror is getting fixed, Loki reaches out with his mind where he finds Iron Man and Iron Fist looking for Abomination. Loki finds Abomination on top of a passing airplane as he overloads Abomination. Upon Abomination breaking the airplane, Iron Man and Iron Fist rescue the passengers and land them safely on the offshore oil platform while Hulk arrives to fight Abomination. With help from Iron Fist, Hulk knocks Abomination into the ocean. When Loki plans to overload Hulk to serve him, Hulk notices his floating eyes and punches it as Loki feels the pain while getting a black eye.
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Loki declares that his plans are almost complete as his Chitauri minions sweep the floor. On the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, Wolverine, Captain America, and Black Widow do a roll-call on the captive supervillains Doctor Octopus, Venom, Abomination, Mandarin, Red Skull, and Wizard. Loki then commands the supervillains to arise as they all end up overloaded again while being ordered to hop. The constant hopping causes the Helicarrier to fall onto Tony Stark’s rebuilt mansion. The supervillains then go on a rampage as Iron Man, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Captain America, Wolverine, and Hulk fight them. Thor arrives with Spider-Man upon finding him whining outside Avengers Tower. Spider-Man claims that he was angsting. Upon taking down Doctor Octopus, Thor traces the Norn Frost back to Loki. Thor brings Iron Man and Spider-Man to Asgard to confront Loki while the others fight the supervillains.
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Upon the Chitauri minions fixing the Scrying Mirror, Loki views it and sees Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man approaching his lair. Upon the arrival of Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man, Loki eats all the Norn Frost in the possession of one of his Chitauri minions and fights them. After throwing Spider-Man into a wall, Loki states to Iron Man and Thor that he is meddling in the affairs of Earth and take the throne of Asgard (Loki whispered that part which the Chitauri minion said out loud). Upon Loki slipping, Thor throws Mjolnir at Loki as he hangs over the crevasse. Thor then demands that Loki removes his enchantment and vow to never disturb the peace of Midgard under the threat of the hammer noogie. Loki surrenders where the Norn Frost’s enchantment wears off enabling the supervillains to be defeated. Thor then plans to tell Odin what Loki was doing. Loki begs for Thor not to tell their father or to tell him that he was watching the Scrying Mirror since Odin took away his scrying privelages 3 centuries ago. After Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man leave, Loki changes the channel on the Scrying Mirror before Hulk can do another attack on him.
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On the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, the supervillains are locked up as they plan their revenge. On the deck of the Helicarrier, it was mentioned that Iron Man’s mansion has been repaired and the Helicarrier is back on the air. To get the angst out of Spider-Man, Nick Fury gives Spider-Man a S.H.I.E.L.D. Security Card and a Spider-Bike. As Spider-Man rides the web line off the Helicarrier, the superheroes celebrate their victory. As the Helicarrier takes off, the web line breaks causing Spider-Man and the Spider-Bike to fall. In the post-credits, J. Jonah Jameson is visiting the Hot Dog Vendor’s cart ordering a hot dog from him. Spider-Man lands safely on the nearby streets as his Spider-Bike falls on the Hot Dog Vendor’s cart. Getting mustard on him from the resulting incident, J. Jonah Jameson states that Spider-Man must be responsible as Spider-Man sneaks away.image_39e1ade4The animation is pretty amazing and one of the best Lego films I have seen with great attention to detail the effects are pretty good as well it just nice that they took the time to make the animation work and it’s better when you watch it in High Definition to better enjoy the attention of the art work It just a good film that I think the family would enjoy and fans of Lego and Marvel

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REVIEW: IRON MAN (1994)

CAST (VOICES)

Robert Hays (Airplane)
James Avery (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Ed Gilbert (Transformers)
Robert Ito (Batman: TAS)
Dorian Harewood (Sparkle)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Matt Frewer (Taken)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Batman: TAS)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Lisa Zane (Monkeybone)

Although only lasting two seasons, Iron Man was the subject of a major overhaul between seasons when its production studio was changed. The result was a massively changed premise, tone, and general approach, which left the disparate seasons scarcely recognizable as being two halves of the same series.

The first season of Iron Man featured little more than a Masters of the Universe-style battle of “good against evil”, as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark battled the evil forces of the world-conquering Mandarin as the armored superhero, Iron Man. In his evil endeavors to steal Stark’s technology and Iron Man’s armor, the Mandarin led a group of villains consisting of Dreadknight, Blizzard, Blacklash, Grey Gargoyle (when it comes to fighting Iron Man and his team, he has a tendency to accidentally turn his fellow villains to stone), Hypnotia (Dreadknight and Blacklash were rivals for the affections of Hypnotia), Whirlwind, Living Laser, MODOK, Fin Fang Foom and Justin Hammer. To combat these villains, Iron Man had the help of his own team (based on Force Works, a then-current comic book team which has since faded into obscurity), including Century, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye (replacing U.S. Agent from the comics) and Spider Woman.

The season consisted mostly of single-episode open-and-shut-case adventures, with two two-part stories late towards the end. Unlike many other Marvel animated series, despite featuring over-the-top titles that paid homage to the early Stan Lee written Marvel comics of the 1960s (for example, “The Grim Reaper Wears a Teflon Coat”, and “Rejoice, I am Ultimo, Thy Deliverer”), almost none of the episodes were adaptations of comic book stories, consisting instead of original stories penned by Ron Friedman, occasionally collaborated on by Stan Lee himself. The closest the season came to adapting a comic book tale was in the two-part “The Origin of Iron Man”, which recounted a (modified and modernized) version of the character’s comic book origin  just before the season concluded.

This late-run recounting of the title character’s origin is symptomatic of what is generally thought of as the season’s greatest weakness – despite (or perhaps because of) having such a large cast of characters, very few of the show’s heroes and villains were actually developed in any way, leaving viewers unaware of their personal stories and powers. The show is generally held to have been at its best when filling in these origin blanks (MODOK in “Enemy Without, Enemy Within,” Iron Man and the Mandarin in their self-titled “The Origin of…” episodes), but these were rare occasions, with virtually every other plot simply consisting of the Mandarin attempting to steal Stark’s newest invention and being bested, often through very strange and illogical means (with the nadir perhaps being Iron Man somehow using the energy of a small tape-player to restore his armor to full power in “Silence My Companion, Death My Destination”).

A small sub-plot in the first season revolves around Mandarin secretly spying on Force Works. It culminates in “The Wedding of Iron Man” when Stark realizes they have been spied on by reviewing events from previous episodes (and explaining how Mandarin’s forces always knew where they would be), realising that Mandarin has acquired enough information to potentially deduce the true identity of Iron Man. The entire episode’s plot is dedicated to resolving the problem, culminating in Iron Man and his team setting up an elaborate deception where Mandarin sees Iron Man and Tony Stark in the same place with the intention being to convince him that the two men are not the same person (The ‘Tony’ in the situation was an android).

In 1995, Marvel switched The Marvel Action Hour to a new animation studio (as previously mentioned, the animation in Season 1 was provided by the Rainbow Animation Group, while the animation in Season 2 was provided by Koko Enterprises), and with it came new writers (Ron Friedman was replaced by Tom Tataranowicz for Season 2) and new music for each sequence, coupled with a new direction for the series. The first season’s subtle keyboard theme music for Iron Man (composed by progressive rock artist Keith Emerson) was replaced by an intense electric guitar theme featuring the repeated refrain of “I am Iron Man!”, while showing Tony Stark beating red-hot iron plates into shape with a blacksmith’s hammer (possibly to mimic the Black Sabbath song “Iron Man”). Tony Stark’s longer hair style in the second season was based upon the artist Mark Bright’s depiction of Stark from the late 1980s, which is where most of the episodes from Season 2 were based upon.

The new story lines spanned multiple episodes and were no longer “open and shut” cases. They formed a linking narrative, featuring themes of duplicity, consequence, and phobias. Also, the stories were no longer centered on the Mandarin, whose rings had been scattered and whose power had been depleted. While the Mandarin did appear in these episodes, his appearances were reduced to cameos in the cliffhangers at the end of the story, as he tried to retrieve each ring.

Another change was that Force Works was mostly written out of the series, parting ways with Stark after he deceives them in order to work in secret with the Mandarin when Fin Fang Foom and his fellow Dragons were plotting to eliminate Earth. When Stark’s counter plan against Justin Hammer, which includes faking his death without the knowledge of his teammates, leads to a disbanding of Force Works, Julia Carpenter and James Rhodes are the only ones who continue to work with Stark. This split would be revisited with Stark’s ensuing conflicts with Hawkeye over the course of several episodes.

Also, War Machine develops a phobia of being trapped inside his armor (also based on a then-current comic storyline), but this is resolved before the final episode. While Rhodes was active as War Machine in Season 1, he remained out of armor for the majority of Season 2 due to reliving a tragic drowning experience while being trapped underwater in the War Machine armor in the Season 2 episode “Fire And Rain”. Rhodes eventually overcomes his fear and dons the War Machine armor once again in the episode “Distant Boundaries”.

Prior to finding his last two rings, the Mandarin claims his eighth ring from MODOK in the episode “Empowered”. “Empowered” was the clip show of the season, the purpose being that the Mandarin wanted to learn of Iron Man’s recent activities. In the finale,[9][10] the Mandarin, having regained all of his rings, unleashes a mist using the Heart of Darkness to render everything technological useless. Iron Man reunites with Force Works in order to stop him. The Mandarin unmasks Iron Man before their final showdown ends in his death. More specifically, Iron Man manages to reflect the power of Mandarin’s rings, destroying them, and ultimately leaving the Mandarin with amnesia and helpless before a band of desert bandits who likely killed him, or at least cut off his hand/fingers for the rings. After Mandarin was killed, MODOK and the rest of Mandarin’s henchmen were sent to jail. After disappointing ratings, the series was canceled.

After twenty six episodes, Iron Man the animated series remains a very mixed bag. Blame for this shows disappointing quality can be attributed to constrictions placed upon the writers to feature as many Iron Man suits as possible in each episode as free publicity for the toys. On the bright side, it got better, allowing the audience at least 13 episodes of decent animated entertainment.

REVIEW: IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES – SEASON 1 & 2

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MAIN CAST

Adrian Petriw (Edgemont)
Daniel Bacon (50/50)
Vincent Tong (Death Note)
Anna Cummer (Aliens In America)
Mackenzie Gray (Man of Steel)Image result for iron man armored adventures LOGO

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Catherine Lough Haggquist (Godzilla)
Fred Henderson (This Means War)
Alistair Abell (Freddy vs Jason)
Ty Olsson (Battlestar Glactica)
Christopher Britton (Thor: Tales of Asgard)
Venus Terzo (X-Men Evolution)
Lee Tockar (George of The Jungle)

When his industrialist father Howard Stark who disappears in a plane crash after refusing to weaponize the Earth Mover at Obadiah Stane’s behest, 16-year-old genius Tony uses a high-tech suit of armor he has constructed and investigates a charge that Stane may have been involved in his father’s death. As Iron Man, Tony spends his time stopping Stane’s plans and saving the world from other villains such as Mandarin, Mr. Fix, Whiplash, A.I.M., Living Laser, the Maggia, Controller, Crimson Dynamo, Blizzard, Killer Shrike, Unicorn, M.O.D.O.K., Ghost, Black Knight, and Technovore. He is assisted in his crime fighting efforts with help from James Rhodes and Pepper Potts. Tony’s activities as Iron Man usually result in his needing to make up excuses as to why he is constantly late or missing from school and other activities. Dependent on his phenomenal technology for survival, Tony must balance the pressures of teenage life with the duties of being a super hero.

The first season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures has a total of 26 episodes. Tony Stark, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Pepper Potts, Gene Khan, Happy Hogan, Nick Fury, Whitney Stane, Black Panther, The Hulk, and S.H.I.E.L.D. all appear in this season.

The first season focuses on the Makluan Rings saga as Tony, Pepper, Rhodey, and Gene Khan work together to get the 5 rings. Upon overthrowing his stepfather Xin Zhang, Gene secretly works undercover to steal the rings from his friends, and ends up betraying them (which upsets Pepper). The season also features the Madame Masque Saga, which comes to a conclusion in the episode “Best Served Cold”. Tony’s feud with Obadiah Stane comes to a partial conclusion in that episode as well. The season ends with two primary cliffhangers in the episode “Tales of Suspense”. The now-friendless Gene discovers that the original Mandarin had 5 other rings besides the original 5. Tony finds out that his father, Howard, survived the plane crash and is being held prisoner, while the armory is destroyed during Xin Zhang’s attack limiting Tony’s resources to find and rescue his father.This season featured Makluan Guardian versions of Dreadknight, Ultimo, Firebrand, and Fin Fang Foom who guard the rings the Mandarin hasn’t obtained yet.

The second season of Iron Man: Armored Adventures has a total of 26 episodes, just like the first season. Black Widow / Natalie Romanoff, Hawkeye, Doctor Doom, Magneto and Justin Hammer appear in this season. General Nick Fury, Black Panther, Mr. Fix, Whiplash and Obadiah Stane return.

The second season covers the Armor Wars saga and Stane International storylines. The first half of Season Two reflecting the Armor Wars has Tony and Rhodey as his definite partner War Machine fighting many people who have stolen Stark’s armor tech and seek to exploit the stolen Iron Man specs for their own purposes.

The enemies young Stark fights during this version of the Armor Wars include the Ghost who steals Iron Man specs and knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man. Ghost sells the specs to both Justin Hammer and Obadiah Stane but says he will not reveal Iron Man’s true identity until Tony turns 18. Justin Hammer makes an armor with the Iron Man specs with the armor being called Titanium Man. Doctor Doom joins forces with Stane to attain the Iron Man armor operating system. Stane builds the Iron Monger armor which is revealed actually to be a direct upgrade from Crimson Dynamo armor (version 3) and is much larger than in the comic book and live action movie realities. The Armor Wars conclude as Obadiah Stane discovers the identity of Iron Man. Stane steals Iron Monger and is intent on destroying Tony once and for all.

While Tony is fighting the Armor Wars, Howard Stark is shown to be alive and forced by Gene to find the other 5 Makluan Rings. Gene continues to find and secured the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth rings for himself during this time. This part of the season also included Makluan Guardian versions of Melter, Sunturion, Grim Reaper, and Grey Gargoyle who guard the remaining Makluan Rings. The second half of season two is loosely based on the “Stane International” story arc. Justin Hammer (instead of Obadiah Stane) successfully buys control of Stark International. Stark, Rhodey and Potts all agree to fight against Hammer and his weaponization of Stark International’s projects. Unlike the printed page version, Stark and Rhodes reject the title of Circuits Maximus for the new start-up and settle on “Stark Solutions” . By the end of the second season, Pepper has assumed the armored identity of Rescue.

The show is well written. The characters are three dimensional. And the story is very intriguing. But you have to watch all the episodes in order. It’s almost a serial type of show. If you miss an episode it’ll be harder to understand what’s going on.

REVIEW: IRON MAN (1966)

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CAST (VOICES)

John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Bernard Cowan (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Peg Dixon (Strange Paradise)

Thirteen episodes of the animated Marvel Comics’ tough-as-steel superhero – Iron Man. In ‘The Mandarin’s Revenge’ when military missiles begin disappearing, Iron Man allows himself to be captures by the Mandarin. He fights the Mandarin and stops missile from exploding.

In ‘The Moleman Strikes’ the Mole Man captures Iron Man and steals an earth digging device. Iron Man frees himself and must face a fire-breathing Dragon. He defeats the monster and tricks the Mole Man into destroying the digging device. In ‘The Death of Tony Stark’ Happy Hogan and Pepper think that the Mandarin killed Tony Stark, but the Iron Man is alive and facing a series of death traps.

The Mandarin tells Iron Man his origin, battles him and Iron Man escapes, returning as Stark to his relieved friends. In ‘If I Die, Let It Be With Honor’ Iron Man faces death if Happy doesn’t bring him a needed component in time. Happy is wounded but saves Iron Man’s life. In ‘The Crimson Dynamo’ when the Crimson Dynamo battles Iron Man and defects, the Black Widow’s partner dons the Dynamo armour. The original Dynamo sacrifices his life so that Iron Man can defeat his evil counterpart.

In ‘Double Disaster’ Tony Stark discovers that a trusted employee is stealing from him and fires him. The ex-employee becomes Jack Frost and vows revenge, but Iron Man heats him up before he can do more damage. In ‘Enter Hawkeye’ Hawkeye decides to become a super hero but falls prey to the Black Widow. Hawkeye and Widow fight Iron Man but flee before Iron Man can stop them. In ‘Ultimo’ Tony Stark is captured by the Mandarin and the giant Ultimo. He must stop them before getting back to a congressional hearing or the Senate will cancel all of Stark’s industry contracts.

In ‘The Dream Master’ Count Nefaria causes Iron Man to believe he is fighting the Unicorn and the Crimson Dynamo in his nightmares. Iron Man must defeat Aliens from outer space to stop Nefaria. In ‘My Life For Yours’ Iron Man loses power when trying to rescue Happy from the Black Knight’s mysterious castle. Happy is turned into a monster and Iron Man must save his own life and that of his friend. In ‘Beauty And The Armour’ the evil Countess is behind the Mad Thinker, who kidnaps Tony Stark.

The Countess steals Iron Man’s armour to defeat Titanium Man. In ‘The Other Iron Man’ Hogan takes on the Guise of Iron Man when Stark collapses and is captured by the Mandarin. Tony builds a new suit of armour and comes to Happy’s aid. In ‘Cliffs Of Doom’ The Chameleon and Kraven the Hunter battle Iron Man to get a new laser gun. The Chameleon convinces Iron Man that he is the real Captain America. The two heroes do battle until they realize the dupe. Crude animation, but a fun show, out of all the 66 animated shows this one has to one of my favorites.

REVIEW: THE SUB-MARINER (1966)

 

CAST (VOICES)

John Vernon (Dirty Harry)
Bernard Cowan (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Peg Dixon (Strange Paradise)

This is the oddest of the rash of the Marvel character cartoon series that were released in the mid-1960’s.  There are a mixture of tales, some taken from the original Tales To Astonish series, an odd mish-mash from the Fantastic Four and some new tales. My favorites here are those tales involving Attuma, Krang and Byrrah that are taken from Tales to Astonish.
There are some stories that are new to me, Namor in ancient Rome, in outer space on the planet Argon and with the Siren Loralie and the Mud-monster. These may have been original stories created for this series I certainly do not recall them. But by far the oddest one is a tale that features The Avengers and a whole host of classic villains from the early Marvel Universe, including the Mandarin,Mole-Man,Super Skrull amongst others who are brought into conflict with the heroes by Doctor Doom.MV5BODE5OTU3MWYtNTM0Yi00MDE3LTgyMmYtY2EyMjdjMTAxNDBjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc4Njg5MjA@__V1_The X-Men appear here in one of the most amateur, but endearingly so, pieces of animation of all time. The clue to us old-timers is that it is based on Fantastic Four #6 and FF Annual #3 (The marriage of Reed and Sue) only with the very cunning idea of leaving the Fantastic Four out entirely and inserting the X-Men in their place, the animated Iceman is particularly hilarious.MV5BMTY0MTU5MmQtZTdlYS00MDE4LWE4NDMtMWVlYmI2OTA4NDI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc4Njg5MjA@__V1_The last episode tells the tale of the Sub-Mariner’s origin. Apart from a few minor grumbles this is a pretty good package for anyone interested in the early Marvel years.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: IRON MAN 3

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder)
Gwyneth Paltrow (A Perfect Murder)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Guy Pearce (Prometheus)
Rebecca Hall (Town)
Jon Favreau (Daredevil)
Ben Kingsley (Lucky Number Sleven)
James Badge Dale (World War Z)
Stephanie Szostak (R.I.P.D.)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
William Sadler (Roswell)
Dale Dickey (My Name Is Earl)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Ty Simpkins (Jurassic World)
Shaun Toub (Lois & Clark)
Mark Ruffalo (Just Like Heaven)
Joan Rivers (Spaceballs)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Rebecca Mader (Lost)

As the start of “Phase Two” of Marvel’s ever-expanding film lore, Iron Man 3 picks up shortly after the events of The Avengers, where Tony Stark (RDJ) played a crucial role in stopping an other-worldly invasion in New York City. Shaken by the experience to a point of acute panic attacks, Stark finds himself obsessed with his mechanical tinkering, creating and modifying suits in the hours where he can’t sleep or spend time with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), now CEO of Stark Industries. During that time, a bearded fanatic known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) claims responsibility for curiously evidence-free terrorist activities through hacked television broadcasts, backed up by cryptic “lessons” about American indulgence, artifice, and claim to territory. In a fragile state of mind and dealing with the reemergence of a momentary colleague from his past, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), whose radical plans for human advancement (and his attractiveness) draw Pepper’s attention, Tony flexes his Iron Man muscle by publicly provoking The Mandarin.

Before that, Iron Man 3 offers a glimpse nearly fifteen years into the past as a quasi-preamble, before Stark made his reputation as a public hero. Outside of Black and co-writer Drew Pearce’s evident character reasons for doing so — namely introducing Killian at a younger age, as well as the beautiful, brilliant scientist Maya Hansen (played by Rebecca Hall) and her invaluable yet unstable work in organic regeneration — this also serves as a reminder of a Tony Stark before he stumbled into the duties of a narcissistic hero in a near-impervious suit of his design. Thus begins a personal journey for Stark: complete with voiceover directed at an unspecified listener (you find out who in the post-credit sequence) that transitions to the present era, the strain on his persona created by a near-death sacrificial decision in New York flirts with the comic-book’s famous “Demon in a Bottle” story arc … without ever mentioning alcohol.

The script from Black and Pearce expands on that internal crisis by finding a way to leave Stark without his gear, his girl, and his support structure at a pivotal point, where he’s abandoned in the middle of nowhere with only his wits and scientific knowledge (and a boy essentially embodying a young engineering-savvy version of Tony Stark) to guide him. Some will find this change of pace refreshing, a return to those moments in the Afghanistan cave where he constructed the first rudimentary suit; once again, he’s using only his inventiveness to weave in and out of tricky situations and get Iron Man in fighting shape. Others will find the lack of higher-octane action and similarities to other recent “fallen, morale-damaged hero” storylines frustrating, and that’s partially due to circumstances that are wobbly even for comic-book logic. The pressure rests on Downey Jr. to convince those watching of his fraught situation, and his charisma — now with the added touch of Shane Black’s humorous edge — keeps the attitude upbeat, hectic, and faintly mythic, bolstered by scenes such as Tony literally dragging the weight of his armor over his shoulder across a snowy field.

As  the film approaches a climax full of Iron Men, fireworks, and plenty of Hail Mary leaps within a dangerous shipyard, backed by a reliably fierce performance from Guy Pearce as his role in the Extremis program comes to fruition. What surprised me the most about the ending, once the smoke clears, is how final and cathartic it ends up feeling, as if it very well could be the bookend to Iron Man himself if they decided not to move the series forward. Giving closure to Stark’s tribulations as a self-focused hero and his rocky relationship with Pepper Potts, it’ll make the eminent day when the Avengers come knocking on his door again all the more intriguing.